A few thoughts on the preparation for the IELTS exam

Dear Sanjar recently shared his experience of passing the exam on the Lifehacker, and I would also like to add my experience of surrender and share tips that may help readers. I never took the exam before, then I had to pass it for the first time this spring, type Acamedic.

And here are the results.

  • Listening – 8.5
  • Reading – 7.5
  • Writing – 6.5
  • Speaking – 6.5
  • Overall – 7.5

Actually, before preparation

First, you need to assess your level of language proficiency with a sober glance and, on the basis of this, determine the date of the exam. If you need to take this exam suddenly next week, and your level tells you that you need to prepare yet, then there is a huge risk that you will not gain your precious points. So, the approximate timeframe for preparing for the exam depends on the level.

  • Elementary – 1 year
  • Pre-Intermediate – 10 months
  • Intermediate – 5-6 months
  • Upper Intermediate – 1-3 months
  • Advanced – from 2 weeks to a month

Total, tighten the level, and then to the exam. Of course, all these terms are approximate, but you need to remember how much time you are willing to allocate for training. The secret of the successful delivery of IELTS is just one – preparation, preparation and again preparation. Based on my experience, I recommend minimum 3 hours a day every day with only one weekend on Sunday.

Before I even prepare, I highly recommend that you pass a test test, which is available in any Cambridge IELTS collection. Conduct this test as close as possible to combat conditions, that is, with a clock and a time limit for each module. Download all the collections here.

How, in fact, to prepare?

The main difficulty and beauty of the exam is that it is a complex test, and It is necessary to prepare to the same degree all parts. But, relying on my experience, I would pay much attention to the Writing module, since this module is traditionally the most difficult to prepare. And often it is Writing that causes the fact that you can not collect your own precious points.

Set aside for yourself such time in the schedule, where you feel the greatest for yourself productivity, clarity of mind and concentration. Stock up, first of all, with materials for training, one big-big general notebook in a line for Writing, a small notebook for words.


The easiest part of the exam. But its danger is that if you use primitive words or constructs in the exam, you can get a low score. Moreover, you can get absolutely random text about anything you want. So you must be ready for any words.

When I passed the exam, one girl got a topic related to schizophrenia and other merry mental illnesses.

First, the first part of the exam consists traditionally of a story about yourself and your family. This part you need to learn how to tell without even thinking. Then you can follow questions about your hobbies or other things that you like.

The second part of the exam is that you will be given a topic, and you should talk about it for a certain time and not be silent. Be brave in this task, if you can not find anything for an example.

Preparation for Speaking consists of two parts. First part Is the replenishment of its lexical stock and the competent construction of proposals. I advise you to watch a video where samples from exams are examined in detail and written out not less than 150 of the most common grammatical constructions that will help to develop your variety in conversation. Lexical stock is useful to replenish with other modules. Every day, choose two topics from the Cambridge IELTS or other sources and work through these questions, recording your answers to the recorder, and then listen again and correct yourself.

The second part Is preparation for spontaneity. You can try to do the following: lay out in front of you cards with topics that you can take from here. Choose randomly one and say this topic aloud for one minute, then go on to the next and so on until you make five topics. The time to prepare a response is 10 seconds. This exercise will develop your speed of response and quick thinking in English.

Do not pay attention to the emphasis, most importantly – speak correctly and clearly.

A little job for you. In this video, the young Syrian exams, note how she responds. By the way, this video is from the real exam.

Find in this video 100 useful words (such as, eventually, concerns, taste, always, make fun, lovely, really, special occasions, recognize, afford), and also some constructions (I have to go, you were studying, I prefer listening) – write them down in your notebook.

Now the question becomes logical: with whom do I speak, and who will evaluate me? First, you can go to your city in the club of English lovers, if there is one, and speak there. Secondly, you can find an interlocutor in Skype. Thirdly, you can talk yourself and write to the recorder, and only then find your mistakes and shortcomings

Rate for $ 8 you can here. You need to record yourself on the microphone, voicing the suggested topics and wait for the result.


At the exam, you should listen very carefully and, moreover, quickly look for the right answers, since the audio only sounds once. The speed of finding answers also plays a role.

Preparation here is the simplest and most enjoyable. You have to listen very, very much. The easiest way is to download the TuneIn program on your smartphone and select BBC 5 Live and listen to this radio or other so-called talk radio during 2 hours in a day. I usually listened one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, during the run I did not listen to my playlists, but completely immersed myself in the fascinating world of the BBC.

Every week, take one Test Listening from Cambridge IELTS and analyze your mistakes. Often you may be confused by an unfamiliar word or something that actually meant, but was not directly called.


There are several tricks:

  1. First of all, read this book to distinguish between the most insidious questions Yes / No / Not Given or True / False / Not Given in the test. These questions represent the greatest headache in the test.
  2. Learn the techniques of scanned reading or speed reading, the so-called skimming / scanning. Their principle is almost the same. While preparing for the exam, do the following: do not read the entire text, go for 10-15 seconds with your eyes, mark with pencil where and what is, and immediately go to questions. The order of questions is in accordance with the order in the text. When studying each question, return to the text to the corresponding block and find the answer or read it thoughtfully. If you can not answer, feel free to drop this question and go on to the next one.
  3. The main mistake in this module is that too much time is spent on thoughtful reading of the text itself, and not on immediate reading of the question, and also considerable attention is paid to some issue in the middle or at the beginning of the test. It is better to skip and go to another question than to lose valuable time.
  4. Always make a test, whether it is trial or in exam, with a pencil and with a clock, marking those moments where there were difficulties in answering the question in order to return to it later. Use your recording system or markers to immediately find information.
  5. Actually, what to read? In the academic module of the exam there will be no motivating texts about self-development, instead there can be a good scientific article about bees, or arguments about Albigenses motifs in Dante’s poetry. So you need to be ready for another style of presentation. Here is a list of minimum sites that you need to regularly read at least an hour and a half in a day:
  • The Economist
  • New Scientist
  • Bloomberg
  • BBC
  • Gizmodo


The most insidious, difficult and brain-carrying module in preparation. Here you are faced with several problems:

  1. You need a short time to describe the schedule and write an essay with a certain number of words.
  2. You need to find someone who will check your preparation. Since you can write anything, anything and with confidence to think that everything is right, but in fact your entire writings may turn out to be completely incorrect. Despite the fact that you need to write correctly and correctly, you still need to write on the topic of the essay / graphics, correctly responding to all the questions posed, whether this is an opinion with arguments or something else.
  3. You must use many abstruse words and write beautiful written translations.

So, where to start:

If you can not write a line at all or even do not know where to start, then:

  1. Study the structure of the description of the graph or table, and then the essay (introduction, main part, conclusion). Download the set of essays here and proceed as follows: select a couple of dozens of reference essays and descriptions of graphs and just copy it into your notebook. Rewrite at least 5 times each essay and a description of the chart of the table, carefully studying the words and phrases. After a couple of weeks, rewrite 14 essays and 14 graphs 5 times each, and in total you write 140 times a few good texts, and then you will easily and automatically determine the structure of any essay and graphics.
  2. When you mature for independent writing essays or graphics, then be sure to write an essay in combat conditions: 20 minutes on the schedule and 40 minutes on the essay and no indulgences in time.
  3. Refill your notebook with useful words and verbal constructs for describing graphs and for essays. The use of sonorous smart synonyms instead of simple words will raise your score.

Example words: however, nevertheless, believe, in addition, declined, peak, spread, otherwise, overall. Such words in 99.9% will occur in the test samples and examiners with 100% probability will look forward to them in your essay. Refill verbal constructions. For example, critics ofter forget, while society thinks something … I believe, there is a common fact, many people believe and so on. The plus of this approach is that you can instantly write an introduction and conclusion, and this is one of the most important criteria for a successful essay and the description of graphs and tables

Let in your notebook there will be not less than 300 words and expressions, so you can write, describe, prove, disprove everything. Check the results as follows: if you decide to check yourself, then after you have written the essay / schedule, take the red paste and check everything. Check grammar, spelling and the number of words. Then at the end of the week, look through your mistakes and analyze them. As often as possible, look at them to remember them. The downside of this method is that you can hardly make an assessment yourself, but you will certainly find the grossest mistakes.

If there is a familiar teacher who himself took the IELTS, then pay him and give him your essay for examination. Or pay attention to this service. In short, you pay $ 19.95 and send out 8 essays or charts / tables and within 3 days you receive a response in which errors are highlighted and corrections are made, and at the end a score is put. Very convenient service – he used it throughout the preparation.

Check your scores on Listening and Reading here.

I will be glad to hear your advice, tricks and tricks in the comments.